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UNPLUG!

Now more than ever we seem to be living on sensory overload!

Have you noticed it too?  Maybe it has crept in on you and the subtle changes to the way you live are not too noticeable.  Or maybe you’ve been aware, but since everyone is doing it you have joined them.  It’s hard not to join in when you see the tops of everyone’s heads as they stay engrossed in their phones and the apps on them.

Now before I go any further I’m not saying technology is bad.  It’s not.  It is so useful and convenient for some many things. I am personally on my laptop, Ipad, phone, etc. numerous hours a week.  But the more we use it, the more we use it.  I realize that was a deep one. But have you noticed just how much we rely on our stuff.  The smaller the gadgets get also the more they invade our every process.  My watch now vibrates my arm on a regular basis reminding me to drink water, to stand up, to get some exercise, what the latest breaking news is and when someone is texting or calling and I don’t have my phone.  Now it’s an incredible convenience and helps me stay on top of things that are good for me and needful, but it can also interrupt my line of thought and keep me off focus.

Read more of this article over at w2wministries.org – just click here

PS – I am getting ready to launch a video series on Finding Joy in our Everyday lives!  I’d love to have you join me!  If you haven’t signed up for the newsletter for Encouraging Women Today – you’ll want to do so to receive the latest updates.  Also if you aren’t on the Facebook page for Encouraging Women today – join us – This is where I will be hosting the Facebook Lives for this project!

Click here for the newsletter signup

Click here for the Facebook page link

I look forward to seeing each of you there!

The Value of a Good Attitude

As a mom who has worked with my own children and many others in my music studio for more than twenty years now, I have realized that if I could encourage parents along the journey with something in particular it would be in the area of life lessons.  I began a blog and outlined a book about life lessons with this sole purpose, and still believe it to be one of the biggest things that I would love for parents to hear and understand.

Learning life lessons that enable children to become better, more responsible adults truly begins in our homes.  Reading this week here, I was surprised to find that many millennials when asked what age adulthood begins respond with the age of 30 or even 40!  What?!  How did this happen? Why did we allow them to believe that their adolescence should and could stretch this far?

While I cannot and will not say that I have all the answers because I truly don’t, I think that we can as parents take an active role in helping our children in their maturity.  We can then encourage those young families with young children to begin the same process in their homes.  While we can’t reap mature adults right away, we can begin to make progress and turn this ship around!

Read the rest over at my post on w2wministries.com

Reclaiming Laughter!

We are plagued in today’s society and our homes by a real travesty.  One that is sneaky and underhanded but devastating nonetheless. Today our homes are in dire need of some humor and lightheartedness.  Dare I even say – we just need to laugh more!

Lest you think this is an easy task for me or even possibly one that I have personally mastered, you must understand that I am type A, only child, goal oriented INFJ who has a tendency to think that laughter is not necessary.  That is until it’s missing for a bit, and everyone is on edge and the mood is miserable.  Then…I stop and try to figure out what’s going on!

This happens in our home when my husband travels.  Certain times of the year he can be gone for several days or even a week or more at a time.  We tend to roll along our merry way for a day or two, but eventually things tend to get a bit tense.  There are three females in the house after all…can I get a witness!  My poor son, y’all pray for him!  Needless to say, my husband who is very even tempered and quick witted tends to keep our home lighthearted and when he’s gone, his absence is definitely noticed.

So what’s a girl to do?

Read the rest of the post over at w2wministries – just click here!

The Importance of Prayer Ministry

One of my favorite books on prayer, Quiet Talks on Prayer, relates a story from DL Moody’s evangelistic ministry. The story hinged on one woman’s prayers during a season of sickness. Homebound and heartsick, she found instead a greater calling to a deeper prayer time. She spent time in prayer for her church, for the services, and for salvation of the lost souls in her community.

She read a story in a journal, sometime into her new season of life, about Mr. Moody and the work he was doing in the United States.  Her prayer became an almost daily petition.   For more than year, she prayed that he would come to London and preach in their church. Yet during all this time she had no sign that her prayers would be answered. No encouragement. No confirmation.  Nothing.

This is an except of a post I have up at Woman to Woman today – you can read the rest here…

4 ways to Thrive not just Survive

This blog post is featured in my weekly column at woman to woman ministries today – I hope you’ll head over and recieve encouragement there as well.

God does not intend for us to only survive the rigors of this life.  Sometimes in the course of life, certain seasons carry more burdens than others certainly, but I believe that God’s desire is for us to thrive through each of the seasons. Scripture reminds us in many different verses – but here are three passages to consider:

  • John 10:10 tells us in Christ’s own words that he came for us to have life “more abundantly.”
  • David describes it in Psalms 23 as an “overflowing cup.”
  • John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

This is much easier said than done though.  It’s difficult to think of thriving for instance when you are busy:

  • Picking up the dirty laundry off the floor for the hundredth time that day
  • Changing that dirty diaper again when you just got cleaned up from the last one
  • Preparing one more meal in a day (especially if you homeschool – right mamas?)
  • Feeling and sharing the intense pain of rejection and heartache from our teenagers as they navigate the path to adulthood.
  • Dealing with the threat of loss of financial stability, health, jobs, and much more

Read the rest of this post here…

Owning my Inadequacy

My current Bible reading plan has me reading 10 chapters a day. Mostly you move ahead to the next book of the Bible as each is completed, with readings through the Old and New Testaments.  The only difference is the book of Acts and Proverbs.  When you finish those you start again.  It’s a little confusing to explain, but if you google Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading system you can find some more info there.  I have really enjoyed this method this year. I try to change things up each year as I read through the Bible, because I just find new and wonderful nuggets along the way.  This morning was just such a time for me but it happened in my first chapter – so I was stuck just pondering the passage for a while.

Has that happened for you? You’ve read something before, but never has the thought struck about the way things are worded or why Jesus said or did something the way he did?  It’s so exciting for me after all these years to continually be shown new things, and to have new thoughts leap up from the pages to my brain so I thought my encouraging word for you today would come from what I read this morning – I hope you will be encouraged by it.

Luke 9:10-17 Sets the scene once again for the feeding of the five thousand.  This is such an exciting time in the gospels as Jesus is teaching and leading and healing the people coming to him for help.  This is also not the only time we read of this story – it’s just from Luke’s gospel this time.  This record of events states that the 12 disciples came to Jesus asking him to send the large crowd away.  They needed food and lodging and the disciples were concerned because they were in a desolate place.

Now mind you I’ve read this account multiple times before but I was struck today by Jesus’ reply – vs. 13 But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.”  Now Jesus was already aware that they had no provisions for 5,000 men but they responded anyway with the fact that they only had five loaves and two fish.  I found it interesting that instead of Jesus just saying, yes you are right, we have no food I need to perform a miracle with the little we have, his first response was to tell them to feed them.

For me in that moment, I couldn’t just keep reading, because I know that is exactly what God does with me in my life.  He reveals my complete lack. My emptiness, and brokenness. My weakness and my failures. My inadequacy to do anything meaningful on my own. My complete mess of my own making with no answers in sight, so that He can reveal His glory in my story.  He took the little they gathered and blessed it and fed the crowd WITH LEFTOVERS afterward.  He revealed to them what they could not do so that they could see His vast omnipotence and miraculous hand in and over all.

How exciting!  Let me be honest though, it’s not often that I want to count up my failures and weakness.  Truth be told, I’m rather a “take charge” and get it done kind of person and  I work to get things figured out.  He reminded me in the quiet this morning that He already has it all figured out, and He is just waiting for me to realize it.

What a gift our relationship is with Him. My encouragement for you is to please – take the time to sit in His presence.  Nothing will help you face your day better than to dwell with Him.

Ambition, Time and Frugality

I had started a completely different post to share with y’all today.  But I’ve scrapped it because this has been relevant for me this month, and possibly, just maybe someone else can relate and be encouraged.

One of my character strengths/flaws is being ambitious.

It’s a strength because it gives me great drive to pursue goals. And I am always and forever working on goals – I don’t think there will ever come a time for me to just sit and chill longterm.  This ambitiousness propels me forward to pursue things that don’t come easy and gives me motivation to work hard.

It’s a flaw because well, for all the things listed above.  I’m very goal oriented, not people oriented and I can get so involved in meeting self imposed deadlines, and working goals that I can lose track of time and forget that relationships are the core of human interaction.  It can be very hard for me to pull away from a task when I’m in and working hard, but some days I have to set a timer and stick to it – it’s the only way for me to limit myself.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and found myself once again today immersed in a whole pile of to-do’s.  You see I’ve been a bit frustrated lately about being “behind” on my 90 day goals.  I’m behind for a very logical reason, but I’m frustrated with myself because I feel I could and should be doing more.  Does this make sense to anyone?  I had to sit down and evaluate where my time was going.  See I have a part time job that usually holds itself to 10 hours or less.  This month every week has been above 25 hours.  That in itself should make me feel better, but still…

Most of my days are 17 hours,  some are slightly less, and some are more.  I make myself take the first two hours of my day and create space in my schedule.  The space gives me the opportunity to drink my coffee, wake up and watch the sunrise, pray for my friends and family and spend time reading my Bible.  I’ve taken on an ambitious reading plan – 10 chapters a day – which has helped me to finish the following books of the Bible already this year –

Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians, I Timothy, II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, Joshua – almost finished with Matthew, Genesis, I Corinthians, I Peter, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Judges, Isaiah, Acts.   In this time I also read and review books which have included 3 Bible Studies this month, getting ready to begin another one.

From there, my days involve a variety of tasks – just like many of you.  Cooking, cleaning, homeschooling, helping my children run a business – sometimes this includes advertising, social media, copywriting, etc., running to the doctor, dentist, well checks, etc. etc. etc. etc. I am taking classes on marketing, building my brand, SEO adwords, websites, landing pages, and online courses.  I am working to create a new landing page and starting my online course website including curriculum handouts and important info.  I have 12 writing projects that I want to flesh out this year, and get contracts for – a girl can hope. And I’m working on speaking/conference materials. I teach piano lessons, and run kids to sports activities and events and babysitting. I create daily coloring pages for free, and keep the books of multiple businesses and our personal finances.  I haven’t listed church work yet, but I think you get the picture already – right?  And at the end of the day I’m tired, and don’t feel as if I’m getting much done.

Anyone tracking here?  So I have also been thinking about something else.  I am by nature very frugal.  Or stingy…or whatever other word you like.  I sympathize with Paul and his writings when he said he knew how “to be abased and how to abound.”  I’ve been there – when we haven’t had two nickels to rub together, and when we have been comfortable.  Doesn’t matter, I tend to be very conservative with my spending…but here’s the kicker – not so much with my TIME!

Bear with me, I’m just coming to grips with the reality that just because I can do something, it doesn’t mean I should.  I mean if I need to create nice pictures, memes and posts, I will spend the time and energy to do it and figure it out.  The problem here is the time factor.  Someone else could for just a few dollars create something just as nice and wonderful, and I could spend my time doing the things I’m made for.

Maybe you’re not worried about making memes and posts.  What about the convenience of grocery shopping services.  How much time could you save, if you just went and picked up your food, instead of spending the time looking for the groceries.  Would it be worth $5?

What about discount clothes? I spent years ONLY buying things on sale because I couldn’t justify the added expense of buying something I really loved when it wasn’t on sale.  My husband reminded me that buying things that don’t look or fit right just because they are on sale, they are actually a waste of money instead of a savings.

Don’t get me wrong.  I prefer a sale, and I have loved my couponing days.  There’s a huge thrill to getting those things that I do love, for a great discount. If at all possible I do try to get things for a discount or with a coupon code.  I always try.

But with regards to time, my husband has been trying to communicate this to me for years.  I guess I’m just a slow learner. I always thought he was against doing crafts and projects because he thought it was silly, but the reality was that he was against the time factor.  His view that if it’s not a strength, and we are just trying to do it to save money, we are just spending time instead.

Sometimes outsourcing the tasks you do, makes more sense. Perhaps not in a financial way, but a way that matters more – time is a commodity we all only have so much of.  We have to use it wisely and spend it doing the things we were put on earth to do.  Just because I can do it, doesn’t mean I should…I’m learning.  I’m not there yet, but I’m learning.

Bible Studies & Giveaways!

The recent Bible studies released through Women of Faith include 3 titles – Building Your Strengths, Praying with Power and Giving God your Future. Each study includes twelve weeks of lessons with easy to understand illustrations.  The questions for each lesson have you turning in your Bibles to find the answers and prompt deeper thought about each topic.  There are multiple insets throughout the book with a quote or verse highlighted for special focus. Each lesson also contains three smaller sections at the end helping to dig deeper into the topic for the week, how to meditate and pray, and a trinket to treasure – an object designed to help us remember the lesson.  The format is easy to follow and the consistency between the books make each one an easy transition to the next.  With forwards written by Patsy Clairmont and Thelma Wells, the name recognition give to each study should help it be very successful on shelves in bookstores.

Each lesson is fairly short.  The illustration/explanation is usually just the first page, most of the study relies on answering the questions which are firmly based in Scripture.  These studies will not take an enormous amount of time each day to complete and can be easily added to your ongoing Bible reading without creating too much additional work.  I appreciate so much that the majority of the questions in these studies leads you back to your Bible – the answers aren’t found in the book itself.  This is a feature that is a huge benefit I believe for encouraging actual study to take place in our Bibles.

Included in the back of the book is a leader guide, in case someone chose to do this study with a small group – no extra purchase is necessary.  It is extremely convenient, not to mention a great savings for those of us used to having to purchase an additional leader’s guide to conduct a study.

After having planned on reading Praying with Power first, I decided to sit down one afternoon and take a quick glance through on Building Your Strengths.  Instead of glancing through though, I stopped and did the study and read the book in its entirety.  This is a very practical guide to thinking through our strengths and how God can use them to further His kingdom.  Not just stopping with our own strength though the author does make sure to acknowledge the Divine Strength that we as children have access to in God our Father.  The practical application of all the chapters is an outward focus which I believe is an important one for us women as we can many times become consumed by the demands on our time and energy. I look forward to finishing all 3 of these studies in the days ahead.

From the foreword Building Your Strengths –
“If God sends us on strong paths, we are provided strong shoes.” Corrie Ten Boom

IF you’d like a free copy of each of these three studies – you are in luck!  I’m giving away one set of these three books to one lucky winner!  Follow the instructions below – do all three things:

  1. Leave a comment on the blog by sharing which book you’d be most interested in reading.
  2. Like the Encouraging Women Today Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/encouragingwomen2day/
  3. Share this giveaway with others –either by sharing the links to the website encouragingwomentoday.com or the Facebook page link to this blog post.

Goal Setting is Inspiring & Encouraging

I made a quick Facebook post yesterday asking what people were planning for their goals for 2017.  It was a post generated from my personal assessments and plans that I’m putting into place for this next year.  I always spend most of December thinking through the last year and anticipating what things I can jump into for the new year.

Here’s what I posted –

What goals are you setting for 2017? I’d love to hear them. Share away!!

I’m not sure what kind of response I would receive but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the longer the post has been on my page, the more responses I receive.

One of the things I have learned through adulthood is the value of accountability.  I’m mostly a lone ranger at heart – only child, very driven and ambitious, and not much of a team player.  I’ve always been able to do more on my own.  But as I get older, I can see the value of accountability in relationships.

Perhaps it’s the blunting edge of age on my life, or motherhood and finding sisterhood in that journey that’s helped me see that journeying WITH others is better than lone ranger.  While I’m still in charge of my own destiny, knowing that others are aware of what I’m trying to accomplish and that they are cheering me on or giving me a swift kick when I’m down, accountability has been such a good thing for me to seek out.

Accountability to others helped me accomplish my goal to memorize the book of James this summer.  Knowing that I would receive a text asking how my scripture memory was going, or an email or even an encouraging message on Facebook about what it meant to them to hear those verses recited out loud.  I felt the extra push some weeks that someone would regret not hearing me share if I didn’t reach the memory goal for the week.

Sometimes I think we don’t actually share our big dreams, or goals because we are worried about failure.  I wrote about failure not too long ago over on my other blog – you can read more here if you’d like.  The reality is most of us are afraid to fail.  We’d rather not step out of our comfort zone if it means we risk failure.  The beauty of success though is looking back and realize that failure might have happened along the way but it was not a stopping point, it was the catalyst to the success that came later!

Anyway – I found that several people were willing to share their goals with me – and I was given the unique opportunity to cheer them on.  Some I know very well, some not so much – but we were each bound with the anticipation and inspiration of looking ahead and saying out loud what we want to accomplish.  So.very.powerful.

So I ask you the same question – I don’t care how young or old you are.  I don’t care how busy you are or how difficult is right now.  The moment you stop dreaming you stop living. I speak from experience.  Sometime in the middle of motherhood, I found myself just doing what needed to be done each day without really allowing myself to dream about the future.  With dreaming about the future, planning ahead is so important, and for so long I didn’t do it.  I was afraid to fail, and afraid to want something that I couldn’t have.  Totally faulty mindset there.  Don’t fall in the trap!  Be inspired!  Be encouraged!  Think about those things you’ve always said you’d do. One day. When the kids are grown. Maybe that’s not what you are waiting for, waiting for any next step to happen before you dream about the future is stifling and limiting.

So share with me!  What are your goals for 2017?  I’d love to hear them and cheer you on!

Listen Love Repeat – other-centered living in a self-centered world!

Signing up to do a book review for author Karen Ehman is not a tough decision for me.  I knew that not too long ago I had read and done an online study group with the book Let. It. Go – How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith.  (in all honesty, I couldn’t help myself, I had to go back and see when that was.  The truth is it was almost 3 years ago – I purchased the book in January of 2013 – so in my world that equals not long ago. Insert giant eye roll!!)

Needless to say when the opportunity came up to review her book and post about it, I jumped.  Of course these last few weeks have been some of the most busiest of the year I think, and I’ve tried so hard to sit and read, but time hasn’t been there.  I enjoyed the snippets of chapters I had grabbed, but sitting and relaxing with a coffee and her book hadn’t happened yet – until this morning.

My list of things to do is still a mile long, and won’t get any shorter, but stopping to take an hour of my day to sit in the sunshine while it’s still here and enjoy the book was perfect.  This book is the perfect mix of step on your toes and encouragement.  Challenging and thought provoking, I find myself amazed at how much it goes hand in hand with other lessons I have been working on already.

Karen’s style is easy to read and she adds some really wonderful personal stories to drive her point home.  She’s also really clear about the fact that she and her family aren’t perfect, but they have been intentional in their lives to reach outward to others.  Karen gives practical advice even including recipes for how to bless others with what God has blessed us with whether that’s opening our homes to teenage boys, taking a friend out for coffee, baking goodies for the neighbor or celebrating the mailman.  She reminds us that all of us can be intentional about being Christ to others in our daily lives.

My favorite chapters were Chapter 1 regarding Heart Drops.  Listening when others share a personal detail and remembering it for later.  Sometimes a gift opportunity can be given and it’s more meaningful when it shows we remembered something they shared.  Her chapter on the Sick at Heart was also a great reminder on how to be present for those in their grief.  Sometimes it’s remembering that the holidays are most difficult for those who have loved and lost, and inviting them into our space so they won’t be lonely. Her last chapter on Scatter Kindness was another of my favorites as she reminded us that we can be kind no matter the circumstances.

Karen struck a wonderful balance between the principles she was giving, personal family experiences, Scripture and practical application making this a book I would very highly recommend to all my friends.  The addition of gift tags, Bible verse quotes, and other items is just an added bonus helping us as we seek to be more intentional in our hospitality.  Possible the greatest nugget was tucked in at the end when she encourages us to REPEAT.  Becoming consistent in the habit will create depth in existing relationships and cause in return to increase our outward focus on others.

The great news is that a Study Guide and DVD is also released to be used in a group setting.  I look forward to gathering some friends very soon to do this study together – I think it will be very refreshing for us to share our ideas as we journey together.

The OTHER great news is this! I have a free copy to give away! and thats not all (did you imagine a TV commercial just then? I hope so…that’s what I was going for) with the free copy of the book, I will also be able to give away a study guide and DVD – so that you can launch your own Study group too.  HOW FUN!  

So here’s the details of how to win your very own copies of Karen’s book and study.  Deadline is 11/24 @ midnight (yes I know it’s Thanksgiving that’s why I said midnight, by then the dishes will be done – am I right?)

  1. Share this blog post on your social media – twitter, google+, Facebook, etc.
  2. Like the Encouraging Women Today Facebook page – click here.  If you have already done that – thanks!  I appreciate you 🙂
  3. Leave me a comment here on the blog telling me one of your favorite Holiday traditions.  Since this is the season for Thanksgiving, Christmas and everything in between – share with me one of your favorites!
  4. LAST – comment below the post on the Encouraging Women Today Facebook page, or my personal page that you followed the steps above and want to be entered to win!

One random winner will be selected next Friday – November 25th (Black Friday – yay!)  I will let everyone know who win and that make arrangements with the winner to get your items to you!  Thank you to you all in advance for participating! 🙂

In full disclosure I have received in exchange for my review a copy of the book itself and the copy to give away.